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Legal and the Law in Spain

Social media membership age could be raised to 16 in Spain



The Government has approved the Draft Organic Law for the protection of minors in digital environments, a document that raises the age to have an account on a social network from 14 to 16 years.

The objective of this rule, as explained by the Minister of the Presidency, Justice and Relations with the Courts, Félix Bolaños, is to guarantee the rights of minors in the digital sphere, especially the right to privacy, honour, and their own image, as well as the right to the protection of their personal data and access to content appropriate for their age.

Among other measures, the law criminalises the unauthorised dissemination of pornographic images generated by AI, raises the age to consent to the processing of personal data from 14 to 16, and regulates the online restraining order.

In this sense, the law contains measures to improve the knowledge of minors and their families about the risks of the digital environment, appropriately sanction the violation of rights that may occur in that environment – ​​such as, for example, the dissemination of images generated by AI – and impose obligations on large operators and influencers, to guarantee the information and rights of minors.

Secure digital environments

As the minister has pointed out, the digital environment is today a vital space for the development of children and adolescents, since it allows them to enrich their knowledge and their skills and social relationships. However, it is not without risks, and that is why the Government has defined as a priority for this year to create safe and healthy digital environments for minors and promote the responsible use of technology. Thus, the Draft Law establishes, on the one hand, measures for the public sector and for technology companies and, on the other, some legal modifications, among others, in the Penal Code.

Among the first, the law obliges public authorities to develop a National Strategy on the protection of children and adolescents in the digital environment and, more specifically, to promote awareness campaigns on the rights of minors in the digital sphere. digital and the risks that it entails, with special attention to the consumption of pornographic material, and investigate the effects of technology on the cognitive development of children and adolescents.

Furthermore, in the health field, it includes measures to promote early detection, prevention and specialised care for minors with pathologies associated with the inappropriate use of devices and in the educational field, specific training plans, education in digital citizenship and media literacy, privacy and intellectual property.

Likewise, and in relation to the obligations for companies in the technology sector, the Draft provides that manufacturers must ensure that digital devices have parental control systems activated by default and with informative labelling about their risks.

In addition to this, the rule prohibits, in general, the access of minors to random reward mechanisms in video games and platforms (loot boxes), and obliges both video sharing platforms to establish links to the channels of complaints and influencers to notify unequivocally, whenever the content they are disseminating is potentially harmful to the physical, mental or moral development of children and adolescents.

Adaptation of the legal framework in the face of new criminal modalities

On the other hand, and considering that technology has facilitated unprecedented criminal modalities, it is essential to adapt the existing legal framework to protect children and adolescents and guarantee their safety. In this sense, the Draft Law classifies pornographic deepfakes as crimes, that is, the dissemination, without authorisation, of images or audio generated by artificial intelligence or any other technology.

The law also regulates online estrangement, introduces so-called grooming (online deception of minors) as an aggravating circumstance in different crimes against the sexual freedom of minors, and reinforces the classification of the dissemination of pornographic material to boys and girls, to avoid some unpunished conduct. And it also raises the minimum age at which consent to the processing of personal data can be given from 14 to 16 years.



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